BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON –Iowa Department of Corrections officials are changing procedures at the Iowa State Penitentiary in Fort Madison due to an increase in drug and contraband activity at the prison.
According to DOC spokeswoman Lettie Prell, prison officials are currently investigating twelve incidents involving contraband including a drug known as K2, a synthetic form of marijuana.
In a statement released at the end of last week, Danny Homan, president of the American Federal, State, County and Municipal Employees Union Council 61 in Iowa, said recent activity has been high for drug incidents at ISP.
“In recent weeks, a total of twelve inmates have been tied to an infiltration of the synthetic drug, K2. The inmates involved have either been found in possession of the drug, or near overdose from the dangerous effects of the substance. Despite the sudden rise in drug-related incidents, the facility has yet to be locked down for a thorough sweep to remove all traces of the drug from the premises. Staff who have worked at the facility for decades are confident that this is the worst drug problem they have ever seen.
Prell said Monday investigations into the incidents have not confirmed that all 12 are related to the K2, but state and local correction officials are putting measures in place to combat the surge.
“We can confirm there has been K2 in the ISP and our investigation is underway and not completed. We have not confirmed, however, that all 12 are associated with the K2. And for obvious security reasons we cannot elaborate on any procedural changes that are taking place,” she said.
A statement released on Monday afternoon from Letti’s office through the ISP office indicated the prison has put new procedures in place to cut off the influx of K2 and any other drug contraband.
“The Iowa State Penitentiary has identified the presence of contraband drugs within the institution and is taking appropriate steps to address the situation. Although the matter is currently under investigation, prison officials have announced immediate changes in procedures with regard to mail and visiting to intercept contraband,” the statement indicated.
Letti went on to write that staff at ISP has also been provided information both verbally and via email on the identification of substances, including the drug known as K2 and that offenders who have been found in possession or use of any suspected foreign substances are being handled through the institutional disciplinary process.
In Homan’s statement, he indicated the influx is creating safety issues with everyone inside the building.
“The presence of K2 is a safety concern for both inmates and officers. Offenders have been found incoherent in their cells with head injuries from falling, pretending to be swimming on the floor, covered in their own vomit, and registering a near-death blood pressure with a skyrocketing pulse. The effects of the drug have caused inmates to be extremely combative with staff until they come down, at which point they have no recollection of their behavior. The drug itself is difficult to detect, especially for K9s, due to frequently changing strains. This problem (is) significant enough that inmates themselves are expressing concern that someone is going to get seriously hurt.”